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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Yes, I admit it, I called for an emergency home visit

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We had to do the unspeakable recently. Request an emergency home visit. I am sorry reader, I cannot describe the ongoing guilt I feel about this.

Things hadn’t been right for a while. Sure it was old, and I’m not sure previous procedures had been done adequately. Movements led to strange noises. But that day, that fateful day, it just gave up.

Could we inconvenience someone for our wants and not needs?

‘It’s making a really funny noise Mummy,’ shouted my son. I rushed to see what he meant. A buzzing could be heard, then a clunk and then… silence.

‘Well, it was pretty old,’ said my surgical husband, ’perhaps if we give it a wollop’.

‘NO!’, I shrieked, I hadn’t had time to ascertain its ideas, concerns and expectations, let alone do an advanced care plan.

We needed help, we weren’t experts, a generalist and an orthopod: we were working outside of our competencies. Neither of us had even completed a DOPS in this field. ‘We need an expert who can sort out the waterworks’, I said.

‘Ah’ said my husband, ‘you mean a urologist?’. 

I answered: ‘No darling, a plumber’.

It was a Saturday, it was the holidays and we had no hot water, nor heating. We looked at one another, was this really an emergency? Could we inconvenience someone for our wants and not needs?

‘Think of the children,’ I pleaded, after bribing the kids to do their best ‘street urchin’ impressions.

As they looked at their Daddy, forlorn and shivering, my husband nodded. ‘Make the call,’ he said. The kids winked to each other, I subtly handed over two bags of Haribo.

I rang, prepared for the referral, and possible rejection: ‘Hi, I’ve got an elderly patient, who is hypothermic and seems to have some sort of hot water retention, problem’.

‘What?’ was the irritated reply.

’My water tank’s buzzing and doesn’t work, can you mend it pretty please,’ I paused, and hung my head in shame, ‘And… I’ll need a home visit’. I waited, anticipating the disgust at the other end of the phone, the criticism of my inappropriate request.

‘You’re sure you need it done as an emergency, love?’ he said, ‘it doesn’t matter, to me, it’ll just cost you a more, a lot more’.

So that day our elderly water tank was told it didn’t need a DNAR, but was fixed. We had an emergency home visit by a skilled professional on our terms and my wallet was considerably lighter for it. Could we have waited? Perhaps, but when the payment is commensurate to the inconvenience and skill of the professional involved, that professional really doesn’t mind.

I can’t help feeling we are missing a trick.

Dr Susie Bayley is a GP in Derby and chair of GP Survival

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Readers' comments (5)

  • Spot on. We are the only profession where more and more people want to see us, without any need for advertising, yet we see this as a failure.
    The queues at the beginning of the Harrod's sale are a triumph for shoppers and the store - queues before the GP opens is a stick to beat us with.
    If every patient paid I would not have to judge how worthy they were - it's their money.

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  • The article shows how self employed GPs are neither self employed nor employed. Our income is regulate, our hours are regulate, and our professional practice is regulated. Our practices are like shops without tills. In such a situation,what is the most likely outcome? Also, there are no laws to protect the self employed from exploitation. This is the supermarket versus farmer situation. The only way out of this situation is resignation or the BMA trying for employed status, which the government will never grant.

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  • I fully agree. You should pay for what you want or wait seven days for an appointment.

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  • Be careful what you wish for folks. As a practice manager - absolutely. As a punter, I may wish I hadn't wished for it.

    https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=10&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwic_vXQkf_LAhWMJJoKHVdMBtsQuAIIOjAJ&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DedYPx8uM-6o&usg=AFQjCNG06lP9tBHL2HKdsYnZm4XodChbxA&bvm=bv.118817766,d.bGs

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  • explicit! This is what Jeremy Hunt and co should understand, if you want more you just pay more! if you want cervical smears taken Monday morning in the patient's GP surgery then you should just be prepared to pay more!

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